Loose vs. Tight Handles

Sep 13th, 2014

Category: Basketball Drills

Loose vs. Tight Handles

Great dribblers contain many similarities. They have superior coordination, dexterity, kinesthetic awareness, ability to coordinate feet movements with the hands, etc. However, not all ball handlers utilize the same type of handle. Some of the greatest dribblers of all time utilize the “tight handle” whereas other greats mastered the “loose handle”.

Most coaches and trainers will tell you to ALWAYS keep the ball below hip height and close to the body during drills. This type of training represents the tight handle. Don’t get me wrong, the tight handle is crucial for all players to develop! However, a lot of players such as Allen Iverson and Jamal Crawford have mastered a whole different type of handle: the loose handle.

AI’s legendary crossover is called a hanging cross. When he uses this cross, the ball does NOT stay close to the body and usually will go above hip height. Jamal Crawford also has several “loose” moves that rely on body deception. Of course, both of these guys also have great tight handles as well. The best ball handlers have the ability to do both!

Watch the video below to get an idea of how different players thrive w/ both types of handles. It’s important to understand that each type of handle has unique benefits and should be used appropriately according to the situation.

Benefits of The Loose Handle

  • The loose handle is best for crossing someone/breaking ankles. Because of the torso exaggeration, loose handle moves are usually more deceptive. A good defender will stare at your hips or waist, which makes it much easier to guard “tight handle moves”. Loose handle moves allow you to truly sell your moves.

Downside of The Loose Handle

  • Higher risk! With loose handle moves the ball gets away from the body and it’s usually higher than hip height, which increases the chance of getting ripped. If defenders “sit on the cross” and reach it’s likely they will come away with a steal. However, keep in mind that  if your hesitation  move is good enough, defenders cannot afford to “sit on the cross” and reach.
  • You need to know WHO is guarding you. If your defender is highly aggressive, and tends to reach you’ll want to stick to tight handle moves.
  • You can’t use loose handles in tight situations such as splitting screens, getting out of traps, etc.  In tight situations you want to keep your handle tight to decrease risk of getting picked.

Benefits of The Tight Handle

  • Low risk of getting picked. Keeping the ball below hip height and close to the body is the safest option for decreasing the risk of getting the ball stolen.
  • Better for dribbling in tight situations. Getting out of traps, splitting screens, dribbling through the lane, etc. are all tight handle situations.
  • Better used against highly aggressive defenders who like to reach. If a defender is reaching it’s imperative that you keep your handles tight and simply focus on changing directions and exploding.
  • PG’s who run the offense NEED tight handles. Setting up the offense and running plays should be done with tight handles to reduce risk of turnovers.

Downside of The Tight Handle

  • Tight handle moves don’t allow for an exaggerated torso shift which makes the move less deceptive.
  • Tight handle moves work off explosiveness, so if you’re slow you may need more deception.

How to Develop Loose and Tight Handles

As you can see, it’s important to develop BOTH loose and tight handles. You want to have both of them in your arsenal so that you’re ready for any situation on the court.

To become a master of loose AND tight handles you have to practice both of them daily. When you’re doing stationary or on the move ball handling drills perform some of your sets with loose handles and some with tight handles. For example, if you are working on stationary crossovers you would perform one set of crossovers at waist height and let the ball get away from the body (similar to the AI hanging cross). Then on the next set do your crossovers below hip height. You can even do a third set focusing on crossovers below the knees. Teach yourself to handle the ball at various levels instead of doing all of your drills in the low position.

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DISCUSSION 3 Comments

  1. Dika Firmansyah September 14, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    Nice perspective, will analyze and implicate to my trainee’s and players. Keep up the good stuff

  2. Christian Burrell July 16, 2016 at 4:08 PM

    When making the reads for any COD move, should you read the chest? Ganon Baker stated that when to use a COD is when you see a defender’s chest in your line of attack. What are your thoughts?

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